Financing climate resilience in developing world: Beyond the big ifrastructure mindset

global warming, rising temperatures, climate change

Although Africa has contributed a very small percentage of global greenhouse emissions, it has suffered disproportionately.

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What you need to know:

  • Despite contributing a mere four per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions, Africa finds itself caught in the crosshairs of climate change.
  • Our world, with all its intricate and interconnected systems, is teetering on a climate threshold.

Finance holds the key to climate resilience in the developing world, and it is time we move beyond traditional infrastructure and explore the powerful potential of grassroots innovation.

Our world, with all its intricate and interconnected systems, is teetering on a climate threshold.

The urgency to act decisively has never been more profound, and nowhere is this call to action more pressing than in the developing world where financing climate resilience presents a unique challenge.

The task is double-edged: not only to ensure the transition towards more sustainable practices but also to bolster resilience against the impacts of climate change, especially in resource-limited regions.

For an in-depth perspective, let's delve into the realities of Africa. Despite contributing a mere four per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions, Africa finds itself caught in the crosshairs of climate change.

The continent is repeatedly battered by erratic weather – relentless floods and devastating droughts – making it a poignant demonstration of the stark inequalities inherent in climate change. Those who have contributed the least to the problem are suffering the most.

Notwithstanding such adversities, Africa's resilience is carving out a path of hope. Local communities, in their ingenuity and tenacity, are designing and implementing a remarkable range of initiatives.

African innovation

The spirit of African innovation is not about top-down disruptive change that risks dismantling existing structures. Instead, what is emerging is ‘additive innovation’ - an approach that leverages existing resources and systems to create value in novel ways, ensuring progress without causing societal dislocation or conflict.

It stands in contrast with disruptive innovation, which seeks to replace old systems with entirely new ones. In the landscape of developing nations, this approach is particularly potent. By utilising existing infrastructure and systems, we can enact change and progress without the need for major upheaval or disruption.

This is best exemplified by how mobile phone technology is being used to organise financing for small-scale farmers, offering an accessible and practical alternative to traditional banking. Driving these innovative solutions are enterprising individuals and organisations whose work echoes the powerful potential of homegrown solutions.

Okuafo Foundation, a Ghana-based SME, stands as a stellar example with its smartphone application that uses artificial intelligence to detect crop diseases, safeguarding food security. Similarly, the non-profit organisation Sanku is making strides by equipping local millers with technology to fortify flour in regions where climate change has aggravated malnutrition.

Local solutions

These local solutions prove that the most effective strategies often come from the communities themselves. However, such initiatives need more than just recognition and applause. They need financial and infrastructural support to expand and make a significant change on a global scale.

Organisations like the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development – a public-private partnership play a vital role here, as they work to provide affordable broadband internet, supporting tech-driven climate action, creating jobs, and reducing inequality.

It's also vital to create an environment that encourages innovation. By updating laws and regulations and making it easier for entrepreneurs to start a business, we can create a system that supports innovation and resilience. The challenge isn't to transform everything but to enhance existing structures to empower local innovators.

The Zayed Sustainability Prize, upon whose jury I am proud to serve, recognises and funds grassroots solutions, paving the way toward a more sustainable future for the entire world. However, to make a lasting impact, the global community needs to back these efforts, mobilising resources to bridge the gap between innovation and impact.

The spotlight needs to shift from the 'big infrastructure' mindset to a focus on nurturing local, sustainable innovations. For Africa and the wider developing world, this implies a departure from 'Imperial investment strategies,' such as road construction, and a move towards bolstering additive innovation.

Investing in climate resilience is not just about pouring funds into infrastructure.

It entails enabling people, communities, and nations to devise and execute their own solutions. This way, we promote a sense of ownership and sustainability while reshaping the narrative from viewing developing nations simply as aid beneficiaries to recognising them as active change-makers.

As we navigate toward a better future for all, the need to recognise, support, and invest in local, sustainable innovations is paramount.

Crafting a climate-resilient future is not an isolated task for developing countries; it's a shared responsibility for the entire world. We need to create a sustainable narrative that respects the endurance and adaptability of communities in the developing world, one that transcends the limitations of outdated mindsets and empowers local solutions for global challenges.

Dr Andreas Jacobs is chair of INSEAD (Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires) and Minibar, and the President of Niantic Holding.